tesla lidar
Person in a self driving autonomous car with autopilot. Source: Adobe Stock

Tesla may be making a u-turn for the full self-driving sensors. There have been widespread speculations of Elon Musk choosing laser (lidar) sensors over cameras. Industry watchers believe Taiwan-based lidar providers might benefit from Tesla’s change of strategy, which is not yet confirmed. 

Originally calling the lidar a “crutch” and preferred a camera-based full self-driving technology, the electric carmaker CEO Elon Musk might have changed his mind as photos with Luminar lidar sensors, that are proven to be owned by Tesla and set on top of Tesla Model Y, were taken and put on Twitter stirring up speculations.

Elon Musk had previously shunned lidar several times, but according to people familiar with the matter, Tesla has a contract signed with Luminar Technology Co. to test for the laser-sensor technology.

Industry watchers believe if Tesla sets the road to full self-driving with lidar, Taiwan-based Win semiconductor and its upstream supplier, Visual Photonics Epitaxy Co., are likely to benefit from it.

What is Lidar?

Lidar, fully named light detection and ranging, is widely adopted for constructing a 3-dimensional surrounding landscape image for the autonomous vehicle to detect the environment and make navigation decisions accordingly.

Industry sources commented that both camera and lidar play a critical role in playing ‘human eyes’ to ensure safer autonomous driving navigation. While Elon Musk previously chose camera over lidar, the latter can actually ‘see’ better under unfavorable surrounding circumstances such as in bad weather.

Partner of Apple in iPhone12 production

Win Semiconductor had recently gained much traction after making lidar exclusively for the latest iPhone12 Pro, which is intended for augmented reality (AR) to be built on top of it. iPhone12 Pro is also Apple’s first phone with built-in lidar.

Win Semiconductor went into volume production for lidar this year, President Chen Chin-tsai points out lidar will gain the largest traction in autonomous cars and become the company’s driving force once the self-driving technology matures. The company is already starting to plan for expansions and secure enough production capacity.

Win Semiconductor announced on 25 May to set up a new plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. It will become the largest production base for gallium arsenide worldwide when it enters production in 2023. The manufacturing capacity is estimated to triple the current scale, reaching a monthly 150,000 units from the current 41,000 units.

Apple is also building autonomous cars like Tesla and is also likely to partner with Win Semiconductor for its components as an old business partner. Meanwhile, Win Semiconductor’s counterpart, Advanced Wireless Semiconductor Co., is also expanding its lidar section to join the race.

 

Sources: money udn(1)money udn(2)BloombergcnbcKGIltnthe Verge